“The Passionate Year” is a book by James Hilton, an English writer of the beginning of the 20th century. The extract under discussion is about a commencing teacher Speed, and is devoted to the problem of relations between pupils and teachers at school.
As it turns out, this problem was even more acute in those days as it is now, since the situation Speed faces in the story is frightening – the whole school sits in front of him, and to keep them under control seems next to impossible.
The exposition comes at the very beginning – Speed is in the classroom and watches pupils “coming in quietly enough”, but he is aware of the tradition of “ragging” teachers, especially on their first day at school. That’s why he feels rather as if he were “on a powder magazine”. The beginning on the conflict comes with the banging of the desk-lids.
The action develops climatically. The main thing for Speed is not to make a fool of himself, as it means an outright failure.
Speed pulls himself together, collects his wits and announces that any disorderliness will be severely punished. That doesn’t help – the banging of the lids continues. The next stage of gradation begins – Speed sees a boy, but he can’t name him in a correct way – it’s obvious that some measures must be taken, but to come up to the boy and to advance into the middle of the room means to lose control over the class. The situation gets still extremely tense. Now or never: “Wawsley or Wurssley!” – the teacher utters he boy’s name – “however you call yourself – you have a hundred lines!”. The climax comes, but the boy turns out not to be Worsley at all, the real Worsley sits in the first row, but he gets the same punishment for sitting in the wrong desk. This decision has occurred to Speed instantly.
The anticlimax comes – the class roars with laughter – they have obviously liked a fair and a witty decision of a teacher.
Speed managed to put them off, but was that all? They still had in store their fireworks, for which they have subscribed over fifteen shillings.. But this time Speed won the battle.
The message of the text can be formulated the following way – to be a professional, it’s necessary to be sure of oneself, to act with confidence, at the same time one should not go beyond his commission and be fair on his subordinates, be it school or some other organization or what not. And it turns out for the one hundredth time, that it is always possible to find the right approach to children at school, one should just think it over.
Speed, as we see, is a real professional – he’s confident, witty, strong-willed, as one could have just given up working at such school, he possesses all the necessary qualities for a teacher. He faces the problem and is the winner in the long run. He is a good example for us all.
The author uses different stylistic means to make the narration lively, vivid and captivating: the choice of words (the school were straggling, not just going, to their places, the assembly roared with laughter, etc), makes use both of formal words and colloquialisms: subdued expectancy, pleaded for the remission on the one hand and grinned at each other, roared with laughter on the other hand. This all adds to the description of the atmosphere and makes the story the one it is, the one interesting to read, the one to get experience from, the one to remember.